OUR existing form of government has a number of odd features which must make things difficult for any government in power:

n Three of the constituent countries of the UK have devolved governments but without full powers to raise taxes and control domestic affairs. This produces arguments over the allocation of funds for the devolved governments.

n The UK Westminster Parliament has to deal with foreign affairs, defence and the domestic affairs of England debated and decided by MPs from all four countries. As a result Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs have influence over English domestic matters but English MPs have no input into those in the other countries.

n The House of Lords is not representative of the four constituent countries and reform is regularly delayed. I have heard MPs say in the House that reform would risk undermining the authority of the Commons, but this need not be the case if the role of the Upper House is defined properly.

It is often claimed that the disparity in the populations of the constituent parts of the UK make a federal system of government unmanageable. But this is no barrier to federation in Canada, where the largest province, Ontario, is 91 times the population of Prince Edward Island or in the US, where California is 59 times the size of Vermont. This compares with the UK where England is only 29 times the size of Northern Ireland.

It is said that the English do not want a federation perhaps because they regard Westminster as their parliament and in a federal system an English parliament would be under a federal parliament and the English MPs would not take kindly to playing second fiddle. There has been a suggestion that, in order to deal with the West Lothian Question, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs should not attend Westminster when English matters were being discussed. In that case the UK would, in effect, have a federal system and it would be better to formalise the situation with a federal system.

The idea that a second question be put on the forthcoming independence referendum, usually referred to as devo max, indicates that there is good support for fully devolved powers. If the UK Government were to grant them now to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together with House of Lords reform then federation becomes a reality. Furthermore the UK, being rid of the above three problems, would become more respected and thus have a stronger influence in world affairs.

John Jamieson Blanche,

Delting, Boquhan,